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Penguin Classics Diary Of Lady Murasaki [Paperback]

Lady Murasaki , Richard Bowring
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 1 2005 Penguin Classics
The Diary recorded by Lady Murasaki (c. 973 c. 1020), author of The Tale of Genji, is an intimate picture of her life as tutor and companion to the young Empress Shoshi. Told in a series of vignettes, it offers revealing glimpses of the Japanese imperial palace the auspicious birth of a prince, rivalries between the Emperor's consorts, with sharp criticism of Murasaki's fellow ladies-in-waiting and drunken courtiers, and telling remarks about the timid Empress and her powerful father, Michinaga. The Diary is also a work of great subtlety and intense personal reflection, as Murasaki makes penetrating insights into human psychology her pragmatic observations always balanced by an exquisite and pensive melancholy.

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About the Author

Lady Murasaki lived in Japan at the end of the ninth century. She was the author of The Tale of the Genji, which has been hailed as the first novel. Richard Bowring has also translated The Tale of the Genji and is editor of the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Japan.

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As autumn advances, the Tsuchimikado mansion looks unutterably beautiful. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for Asian history buffs. Sept. 8 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
And a companion piece ot the Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon. The world of courtiers and courtesans, intrigues, affairs. Daily soaps will never be the same after you've read this book!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Slim Tome that Packs Quite a Punch March 11 2002
Format:Paperback
First off, Although the book i s 91 pages long there is a 52 page introduction. The introduction by Bowring is very well done, especially for those who are unfamiliar with Heian era Japan, like me. Bowring gives adequate introductions to the architecture, dress, religion, and other things of culture at the time. Although the info he gives of Murasaki Shikibu is scant, he does give the reader all of the information that is known about the author of the Genji monogatari. The diary itself is a wonderful resource of Heian era Japan. Murasaki Shikibu gives wonderfully detailed descriptions of ceremonies, dress, and glimpses of daily lives of females in the court. Bowring adds wonderfully helpful footnotes to aid teh reader. Also the illustrations inb the book are wonderful for showing how the Heian lady dressed and how a Heian era mansion looked. Good little book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An important Historical Document March 18 2001
Format:Paperback
Aside from the "tale of Genji" this is the only known writings of Lady Murasaki. The book is slim, as not much of her personal diary survived. However, it does have a good introduction, including a VERY helpful picture of a court lady in her dress. If you ever read any of these old court diaries, you come to appreciate a good picture like this because the women who wrote these books dwelled, almost obessivly on what they wore.
The clarity and quality of the writing is this slim volume is very good, as good as what you will find in the pillow book of sei shonagon. This book is also a facinating read in conjuction with the latest novel by Liza Dalby "the tale of Murasaki". Anyone interested in Old Japanese litrature should had this title to their reading list.
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By A Customer
Format:Paperback
The "Diary of Lady Murasaki," displays the customs and lifestyles of women during the Heian period (794-1192 A.D.). She was born into the Fujiwara family, and entered in to court services. Murasaki's diary gives an exuberant description of court life and gives the reader a look into her personal thoughts.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An important Historical Document March 18 2001
By K. Maxwell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Aside from the "tale of Genji" this is the only known writings of Lady Murasaki. The book is slim, as not much of her personal diary survived. However, it does have a good introduction, including a VERY helpful picture of a court lady in her dress. If you ever read any of these old court diaries, you come to appreciate a good picture like this because the women who wrote these books dwelled, almost obessivly on what they wore.
The clarity and quality of the writing is this slim volume is very good, as good as what you will find in the pillow book of sei shonagon. This book is also a facinating read in conjuction with the latest novel by Liza Dalby "the tale of Murasaki". Anyone interested in Old Japanese litrature should had this title to their reading list.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice edition of a minor text March 22 2010
By Manuel Del Rio Rodriguez - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This penguin volume is the paperback and easily accessed translation of the 'Diary of Murasaki Shikibu', a fragmentary piece written by the author of the much more famous and inspired 'Tale of Genji'. As Genji is probably the best work in all the history of Japanese literature, and as we know so little about its author, this diary (which is a fragented remain of the possible original) has acquired a certain relevance it would otherwise lack from purely literary and quality arguments.

The diary as said is a fragmented and patched-up remain of the original one that Murasaki Shikibu might have noted down. It mainly describes the events of 2 years when she was in the service of Empress Shoshi at the Tsuchimikado Palace. The main event in more than half of the book is the birth of Prince Atsunada, son of Shoshi and the reigning Emperor (Go-Ichijo) and grandson of Fujiwara no Michinaga (the all-powerful regent of that period of Heian Japan). The first 50 or so sections describe in detail the ceremonies held and gives a glimpse of courtier life of the times, so different from the idealized view that Murasaki would forge in the Genji. Here the courtiers tend to be rude, unsubtle and drunk, and the ladies (Murasaki included) bored, insecure and with a high tendency to gossip and critizising everyone else. The second part of the book includes some semblances of fellow-maids and courtiers, some of which were famous poets on their own (Ise no Taifu, Akazome Emon, Sei Shonagon), some ritual Gosechi Dances at the Imperial Palace and Murasaki's absence from the Courtly World. As in all Heian-era diaries, the events described are interspersed with poems written by Murasaki and others for the occasion. Heian courtiers were expected to produce them quite spontaneously as a matter of fact.

Don't get me wrong: the diary as it is has its interest and its beauties. Some of the poems are very good, and some of the paragraphs have been clearly polished and noted down by a master writer, like the first scene of the book, describing the arrival of late autumn at the Tsuchimikado Palace and the lovely combination of the sight of the waters in the Palace lake with the sound of the chanting of the monks. Nevertheless, it is a work of marginal interest if you aren't extremely interested in Heian Japan, the court life of the eleventh century and/or Murasaki Shikibu. I consider it well worth the read, but definitely a minor, anecdotic text.

As for this edition: it is inspired in a previous one, made by Richard Bowring in the 80s and published by Princeton. The old text (it can still be bought second-hand) is more academic (which isn't necessarily a virtue for the lay reader) but has the advantage over the penguin edition in that it also includes the 'poetic memoirs' of Murasaki (that is to say, a colection of a bit over 100 poems by the author, most with explanatory prefaces). It is a pity that the Penguin edition discarted these poems, and being a very small volume, there would have been no space troubles about it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Different. April 8 2013
By Jeff I. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I guess it's a different take on the whole Heian era author of Genji. Interesting is all I can say.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Enjoyable June 23 2011
By Brynnlux - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed reading this. I kind of wish I'd read the Tale of Genji first though. I will have to order that one next, and then move on The Pillow Book. This book was so slim, I had no idea it would take only 2 nights for me to right it. The introduction and appendixes take up more space than the actual diary does! Which is fine. The diary is full of information even though it is very short. I really enjoyed the rich detail, especially about the birth of the prince and the clothing of the ladies at court. Reading about all the gifts to the prince at his birth makes even the most elaborate modern baby showers look shabby for sure! I plan to read more about this time period and then go back and read the diary again because I'm sure I'll get more out of it after I know more about the period.
15 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This book gives much insight to women of the Heian period. Dec 10 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The "Diary of Lady Murasaki," displays the customs and lifestyles of women during the Heian period (794-1192 A.D.). She was born into the Fujiwara family, and entered in to court services. Murasaki's diary gives an exuberant description of court life and gives the reader a look into her personal thoughts.
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